Can you believe this? It's the final preseason edition of the College Football Notebook. The Notebook will switch to a weekday publication once the season starts, so keep watching WDRB.com for that change. This week, lots of nuts and bolts, a look at the running back competitions at Louisville and Kentucky and the depth chart release from Indiana, plus, some respect for U of L from a surprising place.
Cards get respect from one AP voter in SEC country
The Associated Press preseason college football Top 25 came out a week ago, and the Notebook has been trying to debrief the voters who helped the University of Louisville finish 25th on the initial ballot.
One of those voters is Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News, one of the most respected football writers in the nation.
Why did a guy in the heart of SEC country vote the team favored to win the Big East Number 20, ahead of Oklahoma State, Ohio State and Auburn? Doesn't he know that SEC fans scoff at the idea of serious football being played in the Big East?
"I think (U of L coach Charlie) Strong is a good coach and the Louisville schedule is extremely manageable," Hurt wrote in an e-mail. "It is hard to know if Louisville is one of the 20 best teams in America right now (who knows?), but I think they have a very good chance of winning 9-10 games."
Strong: No running back by committee this season
U of L coach Charlie Strong said this week that he will name a feature running back by the start of the season opener against the University of Kentucky, and the field has narrowed to three backs.
"It won't be a committee by the time we get to the first game. It's going to be one guy who is gong to be the running back," Strong said. "We've still got enough practice left (to evaluate). All three of those guys are working. You look at Dominique Brown, you look at Senorise Perry, you look at Jeremy Wright. It's going to be one of those guys to get the carries."
Brown said all three know it's coming down to the end, and all three know Strong and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson have said they are going to name one guy the primary back.
"I like where I'm at right now but I'm still trying to learn," Brown said. ". . . We're all getting to play a lot, and we're all going to get a chance. The job's going to go to whoever can pass protect, run the ball and the whole nine yards of being a complete back. "
"We're all working hard for that top spot," Perry said. "We don't know who it's going to be, but whoever gets it, no one is going to regret it. We don't know who is going to get it, but whoever gets in we'll all know our assignments and our roles."
Ukwu, Smith voted team captains by their teammates
In one of the closest team votes UK coach Joker Phillips says he can remember, defensive end Collins Ukwu and center Matt Smith were voted team captains by the Wildcats players.
"It makes you feel really good when their peers nominated them to be captains and for it to be that close with some other guys," Phillips said. "I feel really good about the leadership at the top and I have said that since day one. Usually, it is one guy about 15 votes ahead of the other one, but it wasn't like that. We have some strong leadership on both sides of the ball. I also think that Craig McIntosh is one of those guys. He may have got my vote because of the type of leader that he is."
In addition to the season-long captains, Phillips will name two game captains for each game. Guard Larry Warford and safety Martavius Neloms will be captains for the season opener against U of L.
Clemons likely out for opener
Phillips said running back Josh Clemons is "probably doubtful" for the game against U of L after having arthroscopic surgery last Thursday on a knee that was continuing to have swelling problems.
Clemons rushed for 279 yards in six games before tearing a meniscus in his left knee and missing the second half of last season.
Phillips will have plenty of backs to choose from in what has been a five- or six-way competition at the position all preseason.
"The running back is one of the really, really good competitions, maybe the best on the football team," Phillips said. "It might be even more competitive than quarterback."
Raymond Sanders, a junior who was sidelined for much of last season with knee issues, may have the inside track, but he's being pushed by CoShik Williams, a senior and former walk-on. Williams was nursing a sprained foot early last week but is expected to be back at 100 percent soon.
IU depth chart out, but remains flexible
Indiana University football coach Kevin Wilson released an updated depth chart on Friday but says not to take it too literally.
"It'll still be a work in progress -- we expect a lot of guys to play, whether you're a No. 1 or a No. 2," Wilson said. "We're going to play two or three running backs, a couple of linemen, a couple of tight ends, we'll play eight, nine offensive linemen, four defensive tackles, four defensive ends. So really if you're on the two-deep you're going to play, and I'd say maybe 35 of those 44 names you're going to see play a lot of football."
As has been established for some time, sophomore Tre Roberson is the starting quarterback. Wilson likes the improvement in his passing to go along with the threats he provides as a talented overall athlete.
At running back, 2011 leading rusher Stephen Houston has been nosed out by freshman Tevin Coleman.
Shane Wynn, Kofi Hughes and Cody Latimer are listed as the wide receiver starters, with Ted Bolser getting the nod at tight end. Two of the five offensive line spots still are listed up for grabs.
The defensive depth chart looks much as it did heading into fall camp, with seniors Larry Black and Adam Replogle anchoring the line, Jacarri Alexander, David Cooper and Chase Hoobler at linebacker and Mark Murphy and Drew Hardin at the safety spots. Lawrence Barnett and Kenny Mullin are at the top spots at cornerback.
Seniors looking for big finish to 'crazy ride'
Jeremy Brown of WKU athletic communications checks in with this look at a group of seniors who ushered in a new era for the Hilltoppers, and are looking to create a big finish . . .
The WKU football team has grown up both figuratively and literally in its transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
The Hilltopper senior class has been in Bowling Green for the whole ride and can't wait to write the final chapter of their roller-coaster story. Senior offensive lineman Adam Smith, who was a second team all-Sun Belt Conference selection in 2011, is one of 20 seniors on WKU's roster hoping to lead the Hilltoppers to a Sun Belt title.
"I'm excited as I've ever been," said Adam Smith. "The sky is the limit for us this year."
Optimism for the 2012 season could not be higher in the locker room, the football field, the WKU campus or the Bowling Green community. Head coach Willie Taggart, who enters his third season on the Hill, credits his seniors for playing a large role in the expectations.
"The way the seniors approach the game, the way they approach practice, the younger guys are emulating what they're doing and if they continue to do that we'll continue to have success," Taggart said. "A big part of the success we hope to continue is because of this senior class. I really, really like this senior class because they understand what it takes and we're moving forward because of it."
After carrying the brunt of the pressure in WKU's transition seasons, Hilltopper QB Kawaun Jakes turned a corner last season.
He threw eight interceptions compared to three touchdowns with an efficiency rating of 92 in the first four games last season, but rebounded to throw for seven TDs and an efficiency rating of 125.5 over the last eight games as WKU finished 7-1.
"Kawaun has been through a lot in his career here," Taggart said. "It's through all that adversity he's learned how to be a better leader and a better person. He's a big part of why we won 7 ball games last year."
Jakes finished 2011 with a career high 1,854 passing yards and tossed 10 touchdowns for the second straight season. His off-season preparation and the return of all skill position players outside of All-American running back Bobby Rainey has Taggart's expectations high for the senior.
"You can definitely tell he's been working hard," Taggart said. "He's been studying a lot of football because he wants to go out with a bang."
Senior tight end Jack Doyle is Jakes' favorite target and will be a vital piece of the Hilltoppers "bang" in 2012. Doyle hauled in team highs in catches (52) and yards (614) in 2011 and is pleased with what he's seen from his fellow seniors this offseason.
Other key seniors will be defensive end Quanterus Smith, safety Kareem Peterson, linebacker Tye Golden, wide receiver Marcus Vasquez and offensive linemen Seth White and Luke Stansfield. All 20 seniors have taken their lumps and helped put WKU football back on the map. Now they look to spearhead a run at a Sun Belt title and a bowl appearance.
"It's been a crazy, long ride but I wouldn't take it back for anything," said Doyle. "We talk about how much we've been through. The first FBS season, the first FBS win, all that kind of stuff. We've been through a lot of firsts. A Sun Belt championship would be a first for this program. It's something we're trying to do."
"That'd be huge for these guys," said Taggart. "It'd be everything we've set out to do. Then they would be able to say they were the first senior class to do that and I think it's always good to be the first to do something. I wish all of them nothing but the best and I'm going to do everything in my power to help these guys go out on top."
Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban: Where's the love?
Once upon a time, Steve Spurrier was the big dog in the Southeastern Conference. That time is not now, even if Spurrier has retained his signature smirk from his run at Florida. Now it is Nick Saban's turn. Saban is trying to win his third national title and fourth overall.
Most of the world is impressed, very impressed by the work that Saban does in Tuscaloosa. But not Spurrier, even though he's been unable to win at South Carolina the way that Saban has won at Alabama.
Remember what Spurrier said about Saban last spring?
"He's got a nice little gig going, a little bit like (Kentucky basketball coach John) Calipari," Spurrier told ESPN.com. "He tells guys, ‘Hey, three years from now, you're going to be a first-round pick and go.' If he wants to be the greatest coach or one of the greatest coaches in college football, to me, he has to go somewhere besides Alabama and win, because they've always won there at Alabama."
Saban didn't take the bait. At least not immediately. But he did respond during a recent interview on the Dan Patrick Show.
"LSU wasn't winning when I went there," Saban told Patrick. "Michigan State wasn't winning when I went there. Toledo wasn't winning when I went there. And Alabama really wasn't winning when I came here. I guess I gotta go someplace else. I don't know. "I think it's great, I love Steve. I'm always anxious to hear what he has to say – it's always funny."
Thanks, Nick. The Notebook enjoys it, too. Sadly, Alabama and South Carolina don't play this season. The Notebook checked.
Who is the best coach without a national title?
USA Today national columnist Mike Lopresti is a friend of The Notebook. He used to cover high school football and basketball games in the powerful North Central Conference in Central Indiana with Rick Bozich.
Well, Mike decided to tackle a larger subject than the Richmond Red Devils (his hometown school) or the rival New Castle Trojans. Lopresti made his list of the five most accomplished coaches who have not won a national championship:
Here we go:
5. Bill Snyder, Kansas State. Snyder has scheduled his way into the conversation, but K-State isn't going to move Oklahoma and Texas out of the way.
4. Chris Peterson, Boise State. The Notebook can't wait until the Broncos and Petersen arrive in the Big East next season.
3. Chip Kelly, Oregon. The Notebook wonders what will happen first: Kelly gets his title or the NCAA gets Kelly.
2. Gary Patterson, TCU. If he can keep winning better than 78 percent of his games now that the Horned Frogs have moved to the Big 12, look out.
1. Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech. Michael Vick couldn't quite get it done. Neither could Marcus.
Whoa, Nelly. Musberger challenging Jackson for longevity
When Keith Jackson retired from ABC, Brent Musburger became the Voice of College Football. Jackson, now 83, was 77 when he finally turned off his microphone. Musburger will be 73 when this season kicks off on Thursday. He might chase Jackson's record.
Musburger signed a new contract with ESPN this week that is believed to be good for at least two more seasons.
"I couldn't be happier about staying at ESPN," said Musburger. "It was never a consideration for me to move on from here. The people I work for and with are some of the best in the industry. I love the atmosphere at college events and surrounding myself around college athletes. Hey, that's how I stay young."
Go, Brent, go. The Notebook remembers reading his stories in Chicago Today newspaper back when Musburger covered Northwestern. He outlasted that paper, which went out of business in 1974. Now he's primed to outlast Jackson.
Breaking down the teams in the AP pre-season Top 25 by conference.
1. Southeastern, Big 12 (6 teams each) 3. Big Ten (5 teams) 4. ACC, Pac 12 (3 teams) 6. Big East, Mountain West (1 team)
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